Why Retailers Are Crowdsourcing Delivery

Imagine getting paid to go home. (Really, take a moment and do so. Feels nice, right?) Now, imagine not only getting paid to go home, but doing so in a way that pleases one’s employer, neighbor, girlfriend’s boss or the person on the other end of that daily, mundane trip.

It’s not a fantasy, but a reality for a growing number of drivers in the United States. That includes, as Roadie CEO Marc Gorlin said, a Delta ticket agent in the California Bay Area who, through Roadie’s digital technology, delivers misplaced bags to travelers who happen to be located along the route that the agent uses to drive home after shifts.

“He takes a bag once or twice a week,” Gorlin told Karen Webster during the latest edition of the PYMNTS Matchmakers interview series. “He’s basically getting paid to go home.”


The general experience can apply to retail goods, including groceries. After all, the principle is the same, no matter the retail sector: using a digital platform that crowdsources from big commerce ecosystems to provide more efficient deliveries of goods.

The ever-growing and developing world of digital payments and commerce is full of apparent contradictions. One big one is how the technology that powers eCommerce and other such tasks enables consumers, businesses and other organizations to interact at a distance, and without any personal connection. Yet, the same general technology — via crowdsourcing, for instance — can also serve to not only build new communities, but strengthen ties among existing ones.

Solving early 21st-century delivery problems — some long-standing, some resulting from the rise of eCommerce — can take advantage of that apparent contradiction and offer a new way of doing fulfillment, at least when it comes to specific tasks.

Retail Benefits

Delivering lost baggage (and doing so in a matter of hours, not days) is one example of that fulfillment — one chosen because who among us has not experienced that unique frustration? However, retail can benefit in ways that Amazon, one of the global masters of logistics, cannot exactly match — at least, in theory.

The technology and “data science” behind Roadie enables the company to match drivers with delivery requests that are not only on that driver’s typical route, but offer as little “friction” as possible for the entire process, Gorlin said. The company now operates in “nearly 89 percent” of the country, with some 120,000 drivers available for work, he told Webster.

“We’ve worked with airlines, big retailer[s] and groceries,” he said. “We are using employees, employees’ families — all these people come together to create a driver network that is so tight and reliable, it’s like a fixed asset.”

More Delivery Options

Consider this scenario: A consumer is doing serious home renovations. Instead of wasting time going to and from a store for supplies, why not go online and order them for delivery? Sure, those products can be delivered that same day, assuming a driver or service can handle the work, and may even arrive within hours. Maybe it works better, though, for the renovator to have those deliveries staggered (hey, home renovations can be a complicated process). Roadie can accommodate that, too.

Indeed, even as more consumers become accustomed to the notion of virtually instant delivery, there is also a place in the wider world of commerce and payments for having as many delivery options as possible. That means giving consumers as much workable choice as possible about when they want their products in hand after ordering them online.

“You might want to order groceries the night before from Walmart (which Roadie works with), and then have them delivered the next day,” Gorlin said.

Amazon announced on Thursday (Feb. 28) the launch of Amazon Day, a new delivery service that lets Prime members in the U.S. pick the day of delivery each week. Such a service — one tied to digital, mobile technology and data analysis, and which makes use of existing networks — can certainly play a role in serving those smaller towns and rural areas when all those drone dreamers imagine that technology being deployed. Drones are certainly reality, but there remains significant hurdles, including regulatory ones, before they can be a regular feature of the delivery landscape (assuming that happens, of course).

Keeping drivers loyal to such a platform — keeping them working, happy and dependable — requires bringing as much transparency to the process as possible. Unlike the general case with ride-hailing services, these delivery drivers can “see where they are going, and how much they are going to be paid for it,” Gorlin said.

It’s not uncommon for Uber and Lyft drivers to also work for Roadie, he added. Those drivers are not always busy, and doing crowdsourced deliveries can help such gig workers “fill up” their otherwise idle time with a money-making venture.

So, what’s next for this type of service? Gorlin can envision offering more services to consumers who use Roadie — even if just helping customers carry products up the stairs, for instance. For now, though, the service keeps growing as delivery keeps becoming more important for consumers.